Human life requires heroism in any time, and the duties of self-development and self-mastery call for a greater degree of heroism than any other struggle, which is why the Prophet called the war against the sub-human aspects of one’s own soul ‘the greater jihad’.
Alone of all creatures, human beings are not simply established as themselves by God, but are required by God to become themselves. It is easy to throw one’s life away, either in the name of a cause or at the ever-present command of the vices and passion; much harder and requiring an even greater degree of courage is the struggle to grow and live, so as to become a human being. We must be prepared to nurture and develop life, both of our own salvation and in the name of future generations. This unity of heroic abandon with painstaking and compassionate care is the essence of the traditional Muslim character, which is nowhere more clearly visible than in the character of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, who said: ‘Even if you know that the world will end tomorrow, plant a tree’